Preacher Shaw and the Berrien Blue Jays

Preacher Shaw in uniform of the Berrien Blue Jays, 1948.   Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

Preacher Shaw in uniform of the Berrien Blue Jays, 1948. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

From at least the 1880s, baseball was popular among the small towns of Berrien County, GA.  Ray City has produced a number of high school, college and minor league baseball players and coaches, and at least one major league player.  One local baseball legend was Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw of Ray City, GA, better known as Preacher Shaw.

According to family member Bryan Shaw, Preacher Shaw, was the seventh born child of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard Shaw.  He was born May 13, 1906, in a log home on the west bank of Possum Branch, in the New Lois community near Ray City, Georgia and grew up in a nearby home. He was educated in county schools at Pine Grove and Kings Chapel.

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

[Preacher Shaw had a] great love of baseball. During his adult years, he became a gifted ball player, always ready to be coaxed away from the mule and plow to engage in any pick-up game his fellow ball players would draft for him.

In Lamar Blanton’s book, “Tales of Ray’s Mill,” he reflects on his recollection of Preacher Shaw the ball player:

The most famous of the baseball players in our part of the state was a man nicknamed “Preacher,” a title that he somehow obtained without any evident relevant behavior on his part.  Preacher was considerably older than the other members of our team, but age is no handicap to a pitcher who is the complete master of a baseball.  His repertoire included virtually every pitch that has ever been named in baseball jargon. Being past his prime, his fastball did not exactly whistle any more, but he resorted to a vast variety of curves, and speed did not really matter, for it was only an infrequent accident that the hitter was able to get his bat anywhere near a pitch thrown by Preacher.  And all of the time that old son-of-a-gun would just stand there on the mound, grinning with infuriating devilishment as batter after batter left the plate to sit down in complete frustration.

Some of the visiting teams refused to play unless it was agreed that Preacher would not pitch.  He could hold any other position, for he was no better than an average ball player in a non-pitching role, but it was considered an unfair advantage for him to be on the mound.

He and his brother Charlie, who played shortstop, were often recruited by the local ball clubs to beef up their rosters. (Charlie was killed in an auto-train accident in 1937). Preacher actively played he sport until 1948, being listed on the April roster of the semi-pro Berrien Blue Jays that year. However, he was not listed as an active player by the end of the season.

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw (standing, far right), of Ray City, GA played for the Berrien Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team in 1948.

Preacher Shaw (standing, far right), of Ray City, GA played for the Berrien Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team in 1948. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

See more photos of the Berrien Blue Jays at http://www.berriencountyga.com

Related Posts

 

 

Baseball in the Wiregrass

While the Ray City baseball team wasn’t up for league play, the Valdosta “Otters” and other Wiregrass teams formed various associations.  The Empire State League of 1913 included Brunswick, Waycross, Cordele, Thomasville, and Americus, GA.

1909 Rays Mill Diamondmen Sweltered in July Heat

Organized baseball was played in Berrien County, GA at least as early as the 1880s (see 1884 Memoriam to the Alapaha Boys of Summer). By the early 1900s practically every town in America sported a baseball team, and Ray City, GA was no exception.

The local team was the public face of the town. A city with a professional baseball team was a city to be reckoned with; a city with a winning professional team was a winner.”  – Society for American Baseball Research

Over the years, Ray City has produced a number of high school, college and minor league baseball players and coaches, and at least one player who made it to the major league.  But from sporting news in the state newspapers, it appears that in the summer of 1909 the Ray City (then known as Rays Mill) team struggled against other local teams .

The  July 1, 1909 edition of the Atlanta Georgian and News reported that the Rays Mill team gave up a series to Milltown, two games to one:

MILLTOWN WINS SERIES.
Milltown, Ga., July 1. – in a hotly contested bame [sic] of baseball Milltown won its second victory from Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 4. The game was played on Milltown’s new diamond. Schucker and Shaw did the 
battery work for the home team, while Sellman and Shaw did the same duties for the visitors. Schucker, for the home team, only gave up three hits, struck out fifteen men and did on walk but one man. Sellman, of the visitors, gave up seven hits, walked two men and struck out nine men. Milltown has played three games with Rays Mill, winning the first , 16 to 2, and the second game went to Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 6 in ten innings. The milltown team was composed of all home players.

The Rays Mill team followed up with another loss to the Nashville team.

Atlanta Georgian and News, Jul. 6, 1909 — page 10
NASHVILLE 10, RAYS MILL 3.
Nashville, Ga., July 6. – The Nashville team met and defeated the Rays Mill team Monday by the score of 10 to 3.  J. Hill, of Nashville, did not allow a single hit. He made four hits out of five times up.
NASHVILLE 8, BANNOCKBURN 4.
Nashville, Ga., July 6. – The Bannockburn ball club came over to Nashville Monday and was defeated by the Nashville second nine by the score of 8 to 4. Thompson pitched for the visitors, while E. Griner pitched for the home club.

Regardless of the home team wins or losses, the Ray City baseball team remained popular for decades.  Soon, home games were being hosted on the diamond at Mayhaw Lake Resort . Later, the team played on an open field next to the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad and Jones Street.

Related Posts

The Empire State League: South Georgia Baseball in 1913

Mayhaw Lake Resort at Ray City, GA

A previous post on this blog included the transcript of a 1914 advertisement for Mayhaw Lake  amusement park and attractions operated by Elias Moore “Hun” Knight at Ray’s Mill, GA (now known as Ray City), and other posts have provided some backstory on the park’s significance in the community (1914 Box Ball Alley ,   Ray City Baseball).

A Berrien County Historical Foundation newsletter features more information on  Mayhaw Lake and other historic resorts of Berrien County, GA.  The Foundation is a great resource for researching family history in Berrien County. Visit the website for newsletters, historical photos, and workshops:  http://www.freewebs.com/berrienhistorical/

Among the Mayhaw Lake patrons mentioned in the article you will find Bruner and Charlie Ruth Shaw, Bryant and Henry Swindle, Jessie and Shellie Ziegler, Burton and Rachel Shaw, Marshal Sirmans, Manson Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, Tom Parrish, Viola Smith Davis, Elmer Shaw, Hollis Williams, Charlie Shaw, Nannie Kate Moore, Thelma Moore, Paul Knight, Lonnie Smith, J. H. Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Juanita Shaw, Roy Carter and Rossie Swindle.

Berrien Historical Foundation Newsletter front page depicting the swimming pool at Mayhaw Lake, Ray City, GA.

Berrien Historical Foundation Newsletter front page depicting the swimming pool at Mayhaw Lake, Ray City, GA.

A 1922 report from the Georgia State Board of Health listed the swimming pool at Ray City as one of only 63 pools in the entire state.  The report found that a very large majority of these were in a very unsanitary condition and dangerous to be used for bathing purposes.

Related Posts:

Baseball in the Wiregrass

1914 Box Ball Alley ~ Mayhaw Lake at Rays Mill, GA

Ray City Baseball

aaa

J.I. Clements, Jr of Ray City ~ Georgia Southern Hall of Famer

J.I. Clements, Jr. was born and raised in Ray City, Georgia, a son of James I. Clements and Annie May Carter.  He attended Norman Junior College in Norman Park, GA, served in the Army during WWII, then completed his bachelor and masters degrees at Eastern Kentucky University.

After graduating, J.I. Clements joined the athletic department at Georgia Southern University as an assistant coach for the basketball team. At the time, his brother Mason Clements was playing third base for the Georgia Southern baseball team, and brother Keith Clements played center field.  J.I. Clements was five years older than Mason and was named head coach of the baseball team in 1949, Mason’s last season.

J.I. Clements was inducted into the Georgia Southern University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.

J.I. Clements Bio

Courtesy: GeorgiaSouthernEagles.com
Release: 01/08/2008

Head Coach of Georgia Southern’s 1962 National Champion Baseball Team… Served as Coach, Athletic Business Manager and Athletic Director from 1948 until his death in 1984… Born November 26, 1920 in Ray City, Georgia; died October 25, 1984 in Atlanta… Received bachelor’s (1947) and master’s (1948) degrees from Easter Kentucky University… Was assistant basketball coach, 1948-62; athletic business manager, 1957-74, and athletic director 1967-74, but is best remembered as head baseball coach from 1949 through 1966 and again in 1968… Had career record of 320-205 and led Georgia Southern to four National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 25 championships… The 1962 squad’s national title was the first ever for a Georgia Southern team… Led GSC to second place finishes in 1960 and 1968, and a third place standing in 1964… Served as president of NAIA Baseball Coaches Association (1962-64) and was a member of the U.S. Olympic baseball Committee in 1964… Inducted into the U.S. Baseball Federation Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame… Was NAIA National ‘Coach of the Year’ in 1963… As administrator, led Georgia Southern from NAIA to NCAA Division II status in 1970 and to Division I level a year later… Eagle baseball, golf and tennis all represented school at NCAA I championship events during 1973-74 season… Named 1974 Georgia Sports ‘Administrator of the Year’ by Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame… Baseball Stadium was name in his honor in 1985.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

J.I. Clements, Jr. Goes to College

J.I. Clements, Jr. Class of 1948, Eastern Kentucky University.

J.I. Clements, Jr. Class of 1948, Eastern Kentucky University.

James Irwin Clements, Jr. was born November 26, 1920 in Ray City, Georgia, the son of James I. Clements and Annie May Carter.  His father and uncle Joe Clements ran the family business, the Clements Sawmill .

The Clements family was among the most prominent families in Ray City.  The Clements sawmill was the largest industry and largest employer in Ray City.  After the Clements sold the lumber business about 1923, J.I.’s father went into the retail grocery business.

In 1940, J.I. Clements Jr. attended Norman Junior College, at Norman Park, GA, where he was engaged in student government.

 

Atlanta Constitution
October 12, 1940

STUDENT OFFICER NAMED

NORMAN PARK, Ga., Oct 11. In a runover election yesterday, J.I. Clements Jr., of Ray City, was elected secretary-treasurer of the student body of Norman Junior College over Warren Horton of Lake Wales, Fla., runner-up, and Earl Swindel of Ray City.  Doyle Rentz, Norman Park, student president, and Brown Pinkston, Tifton, vice president, already have taken over their new posts.

Brand Hall at Norman College, Norman Park, GA

Brand Hall at Norman College, Norman Park, GA

On June, 8 1944 James I Clements Jr enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army.  At 23 years of age, he was married, five feet eight inches tall and weighed 190 pounds.  He had two years of college education and was employed in the category of “Athletes, sports instructors, and sports officials.” He enlisted at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, GA.

 After the war he returned to school, attending Eastern Kentucky University.  He played on the baseball team and was a member of Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society in Education. He received a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1947, and his master’s degree in 1948.

Eastern Kentucky University Baseball Team, 1949. First Row: Left to Right--Capt. Pete Nonnemacher, Roger Parsons, Jimmy Cinnamon, Dick Scherrbaum, Mac McCarty. Second Row: Left to Right--Lonnie Nelson, Howard Bartlett, Charles combs, Luther Wren, J. I. Clements, Jim Thompson, Coach "Turkey" Hughes, Manager Charles Spicer. Third Row: Left to Right--Don Newsom, Ted Dunn, Ed Lewicki, Ray Giltner, Goebel Ritter, Carl Eagle, Jack Meeks.

Eastern Kentucky University Baseball Team, 1949.

First Row: Left to Right–Capt. Pete Nonnemacher, Roger Parsons, Jimmy Cinnamon, Dick Scherrbaum, Mac McCarty.
Second Row: Left to Right–Lonnie Nelson, Howard Bartlett, Charles combs, Luther Wren, J. I. Clements, Jim Thompson, Coach “Turkey” Hughes, Manager Charles Spicer.
Third Row: Left to Right–Don Newsom, Ted Dunn, Ed Lewicki, Ray Giltner, Goebel Ritter, Carl Eagle, Jack Meeks.

1884 Memoriam to the Alapaha Boys of Summer

Home town baseball was in play in Berrien County at least as early as 1884 when this farewell to the Alapaha, GA team was published. Not every small town could sustain a team.

The Berrien county News publishes the following in memoriam of the Alapaha baseball club: The Alapaha baseball club has about played out.  In its short existence of three months it never played a game without being defeated.

“None knew it but to beat it,
None named it but to laugh,
It tried the county Sumner,
And made exactly half”

as many runs as these mighty champions of the diamond.  This was the last game of the noble Alapahas. Striking their bats in the ground and pitching their balls to the winds, they exclaimed in the language of the hunted Cherokees, “Alabama -here we rest.”

Related Posts:

 

 

 

 

 

Ray City Baseball

 

Just found the following in the sports page of the Atlanta Georgian and News, July 1, 1909 edition:

MILLTOWN WINS SERIES.
Milltown, Ga., July 1. – in a hotly contested bame [sic] of baseball Milltown won its second victory from Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 4. The game was played on Milltown’s new diamond. Schucker and Shaw did the
battery work for the home team, while Sellman and Shaw did the same duties for the visitors. Schucker, for the home team, only gave up three hits, struck out fifteen men and did on walk but one man. Sellman, of the visitors, gave up seven hits, walked two men and struck out nine men. Milltown has played three games with Rays Mill, winning the first , 16 to 2, and the second game went to Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 6 in ten innings. The milltown team was composed of all home players.

A hundred years ago, every small town had its baseball team.   Ray City sported a baseball team that played match games with Nashville, Milltown, Willacoochee, and other communities in the area.  As above, reports of the home team’s prowess occasionally even reached the Atlanta newspapers.

Later on, games were played on the baseball diamond at Mayhaw Lake.  After the small Ray City resort closed, the local team played on a field located near the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad and Jones Street.

Ray City Baseball Team circa 1920

 

Top row far left to right, Elmer Shaw, James Swindle, Henry Swindle, unknown, unknown. Bottom row left to right, unknown, Charlie Shaw, unknown, unknown.

Related Posts